Women’s History Month has an interesting way of helping us celebrate just how far women have come in such a short period of time while simultaneously showcasing how much work we still have left to do.
4 Reasons Women Founders Need Media Coverage
- It helps funders find you, and thus fund you.
- Coverage in elite publications earns you elite credibility.
- Your competitors probably aren’t doing media, so you’ll help fill a void.
- You’ll help hold the media accountable for balanced and diverse coverage.
One cringe-worthy stat that gets a lot of buzz every March is the small, sad percentage of VC funding that women founders receive. Unless you’ve been living on a startup-free planet, you already know that this number hovers right around two percent.
Many variables factor into that pathetically low percentage, including unpredictable markets that negatively and disproportionately impact funding for women, Black and other diverse groups. Yet women founders can take steps to make sure they aren’t always fighting a losing battle for financial scraps.
There is one superpower women can access to help them steal some of the spotlight from their male counterparts, put their companies ahead of the competition and ramp up the kind of elite credibility that catches and keeps investor attention.
The superpower? Media coverage.
Still on the fence about earned media coverage for your woman-led startup? Here are four compelling reasons why media coverage should be non-negotiable if you’re finally ready to smash that glass ceiling.
If They Find You, They Can Fund You
If we want investors to fund women, then we need investors to find women.
By “find,” I mean create the kind of media attention that investors can’t ignore because it’s literally everywhere they read and watch — magazines, podcasts, digital outlets, print publications, you name it. For a new startup, brand awareness is more than half the battle. And if you’re a woman founder or entrepreneur, you automatically have to fight even more for airtime.
Investors want the best deals, but they also don’t want to work that hard to source them. That’s partly why it’s been so difficult to change the way VCs think and invest. Some will tell you privately that when the going gets tough, it’s safer to invest in what they already know works (read: white men).
If you want to make your startup as easy to fund as possible, then make sure you’re as easy to find as possible.
However, that’s not 100 percent the case. For some, it’s simply easier to do what they’ve always done. This means that a lot of times, investing in men is simply a convenience; they are the founders and companies already in the pipeline.
If you want to make your startup as easy to fund as possible, then make sure you’re as easy to find as possible. Be where they are. Be on the podcasts they listen to and in the articles they read. Appear in both mainstream and niche media. Keep showing up until they can’t ignore you. Consistency is the key to winning the media coverage game, and if you keep showing up you’ll outperform your competitors’ visibility and catch investor attention without having to beg for a meeting.
Build Elite Credibility
There’s a joke in PR that public relations is the snotty little sister of marketing.
Anyone can pay to advertise their company. Anyone can buy Facebook ads. Buy a billboard. Purchase “sponsored” posts in Forbes. Everyone knows this too, which is why advertising has become less and less effective over the last decade. This decline can be directly attributed to the birth of influencer marketing as we know it today.
Earned media, however, is different. There are multimillionaires who can’t get earned media coverage to save their lives. It’s based on merit, the power of story, skill and inspiration. Investors, strategic partners, customers etc., know that if you’re in the New York Times (unpaid) it’s because you earned it and you’re worth reading about.
In a world where women still have to fight for any amount of attention for their startups, having the backing of elite media outlets doesn’t just get you in front of the right people but in front of the right people, while in the driver’s seat. It’s the difference between showing up to work in a Honda vs. a Ferrari.
Your Competitors Don’t Do Press
Early-stage startups shouldn’t do any publicity.
Did you just hear me scowl?
After 15 years of working with early-stage startups, I can tell you one thing for certain. The sooner a startup kicks off an earned media campaign, the better startup life will be.
Everything a startup needs is on the other side of visibility. Investor money, sales, strategic partners, accolades. Sure, you wouldn’t use the same PR strategy for a startup that you would use for a $100 million ARR company. Both of these companies have very different needs. However, I would argue that the startup needs the aggressive PR push even more than the established organization.
Visibility = life or death to a startup.
That said, most early-stage startups wait too long to start earned media efforts. This means that women-founded startups can take advantage of this lag time between them and their men colleagues and start scooping up media opportunities first.
Don’t make your initial press run about the product. It needs to be about you.
The good news is that generally speaking, the mainstream media (especially startup focused media) is committed to helping women get more coverage. While men founders are listening to outdated advice and staying in stealth for far too long, women founders should be out in the media, primarily focusing on thought-leadership opportunities for the first six months to showcase their broad industry knowledge, personal story and leadership. Don’t make your initial press run about the product. It needs to be about you.
Hold Media Accountable
Most mainstream media outlets are committed to helping female founders get their fair share of the pie. However, as is the case with investors where sometimes people just do the same thing they’ve always done because it’s easier, reporters can also slip into same-old-same-old habits.
Because the media shapes our world view and perspective and draws attention where we need to be paying it, women founders have a job to keep the media accountable as well. The more media attention that women entrepreneurs push for, the more we will get.
In addition to pitching and building relationships with reporters, one of the best ways to hold the media accountable and get more attention for your woman-owned company (and other woman-founded companies) is to call out inequality when you see it.
The more media attention that women entrepreneurs push for, the more we will get.
For example, if I see an article where all the sources cited are men, I will politely write to the reporter to offer a woman founder perspective from one of my clients. While most of the time, they can’t edit the article after it’s been published, this does open up a nice dialogue about the oversight. If they’re not including women’s perspectives in these articles, then they’re not 100 percent accurately reporting.
Again, it’s all in how you say it, but this is one of the best ways to hold media outlets accountable while building meaningful relationships with reporters who care about doing right by women entrepreneurs.
Imagine if we all started calling out media-bias and asking for more coverage that included women, not just articles about women. We would definitely see those funding numbers start to shift in the right direction.